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by Erin Osgood
Monday, Dec. 29, 2003 at 8:31 PM
Young political songwriter Evan Greer has made a name for himself in Boston by gracing stages with the likes of David Rovics, Howard Zinn, and Tim Robbins. Erin Osgood of Flamejolt Magazine reviews his music, his politics, and his message.
Emma Goldman once said, "If I can't dance to it, it's not my revolution." From the Wobblies' union songs to the Pagans' chants to political punk, music has always played an important role in revolutionary movements around the world.
But with Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs no longer with us, and Bob Dylan moved on to... different things, who is going to lead the protest movement in rousing songs?
The movement is not dead, and neither is the music. A new generation of political songwriters are picking up where the old folkies and The Clash left off. They come in all styles and states of dress: flanel to leather and chains.
One of the most promising new voices in the realm of political songwriting isn't even old enough to remember the musicians who's legacy he follows. Evan Greer, a songwriter originally from Boston, burst onto the protest music scene last year when he performed for 15,000 people at a Peace Rally in Boston. "That was back when I was a liberal," jokes Greer. "I'm still recovering."
Recovering liberal or not, Greer's unique guitar style and powerful lyrics have earned him a name in his hometown and among the activist community at large.
"He and David Rovics are definitely the best out there right now," says Tania Orion, a self-identified Anarchist from Seattle. "I got to see Evan play at the Lucy Parsons Center in Boston. His first song made me laugh and his last one made me cry. I know it's cliche, but I'm serious, every one of his songs is like, 'that's exactly how I feel,' but he finds a way to say it that so eloquent, I can't really explain."
Youngish anarchists aren't the only ones who hear Greer's message. Alissa Friedman, a veteran organizer with United for Justice with Peace, saw Evan play at the Middle East in Cambridge, where he shared the stage with Howard Zinn and Thalia-Zedek. "Howard spoke for a good ten minutes, Evan summed up what he said in three," says Friedman. "It's great to hear such a young voice saying the things that we've been saying since the sixties, but even taking it a step further."
Greer released his first CD, "Against the Blinking Green," last year. The album is roughly recorded, and Greer is planning on recording again in the Spring. "We had no idea what we were doing when we recorded the first one, and I've gotten a lot better at guitar since then," he said. Still, no one can really complain about the quality of the album, since it's free on Greer's website. "I want my music to be available to whoever wants to hear it, not just those who can afford the album," Evan said. "It would be kind of hypocritical to sell an album with songs that complain about capitalism."
Greer is currently a Freshman at Swarthmore College outside of Philadelphia. Since leaving his warm network of Boston, he has somewhat disapeared from the music radar. "No one in Philly knows who I am," he said. "I just haven't had the time to go around promoting myself, maybe after the new album comes out."
Greer recently missed an opportunity to perform with his old friend, David Rovics at the FTAA protest in Miami, because he was arrested before the concert while walking down the sidewalk towards the protest. "We were in jail for three days, but we kept our spirits up, singing songs and... going on hungerstrike," Greer said. Since his return, he has written a song about Miami entitled "More Than We Can Dream," which tells the story of the jail solidarity protest for the 25 protesters arrested on Felony charges, of which Greer was one.
Back in cell-block C5, they begin to hear a sound, through a tiny grated window they see people on the ground, Just beyond the wall where silence falls, 500 voices drown, singing: "You can lock us up, but you can never keep us down!"
So if he's a recovering liberal, what will he be when he gets better? Greer identifies as an anarchist, but cautions people that semantics can be confusing. "If you watch too much tv, the word anarchist to you probably means someone who wears black and smashes windows. There's a lot more to it than that," he says. "I envision a world where order is maintained through cooperation and the recognition of each person's unique beauty and worth. To me, an anarchist is anyone who doesn't need a cop with a gun to tell them what is right and wrong."
Greer is currently back here in Boston for the holidays, but will be returning to school after the break and is hoping to find some venues in Philadelphia to spread his message. "After the massacre of Miami, I think it's really important that we focus on rebuilding the movement at the community level. Everyone should be a songwriter, or at least a singer. Music is just one way to change things though, and you're as likely to see me in the streets as on the stage. I don't write about the movement from outside, I write with the movement, and I invite everyone to write with me."
You can find all the information about Evan Greer, including his free music, poetry, essays and upcoming shows at www.evangreer.com
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